BlackBerry ($BB) CEO John Chen is optimistic about a deal being reached on NAFTA despite escalating tiff between U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Canadian company’s chief, who took over as CEO in 2013, said he was hopeful that tensions among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will be resolved soon.
“I’m an optimist – I think it will happen. NAFTA is very important … for free trade agreements around the world,” Chen said in an interview with Yahoo Finance’s Market Movers. “NAFTA has been, from my vantage point, a very successful treaty for all three countries,” he added. “And the fact that we are renewing the discussion – I was very hopeful that we find a solution much earlier than we are today.”
Chen’s comments amid a tit-for-tat tariff spat between the U.S. and both its northern and southern neighbors. On May 31, the Trump administration announced tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. Canada responded with tariffs on U.S. goods, followed by Mexico a few days later and an expected EU response in July.
Trump then took issue with Trudeau’s comments at the end of a testy G7 summit of leaders from Canada, France, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Italy in Quebec.
PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
Most recently, Trump accused Canadians of buying shoes in the U.S. and smuggling them back to Canada.
“The tariffs to get common items back into Canada are so high that they have to smuggle them in,” Trump said on Tuesday. “They buy shoes, then they wear them. They scuff them up. They make them sound old or look old.”
The comments made little sense. Under NAFTA, the New York Times noted, “Canada does not impose tariffs on footwear made in the United States. Nor does the United States tax shoes imported from Canada.”
Matt Priest, the president and chief executive of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, stated that the president “seems misinformed about footwear trade. Canadians have no real reason to ‘smuggle’ their shoes because their government is already helping lower their costs through proper trade deals.”
In any case, the Canadian government is still holding out hope for a NAFTA deal. Also on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told the Canadian House of Commons’ international trade committee that a win-win-win deal that benefits all three countries was still possible.
“I’m hoping that the governments and the policymakers find a way to come together,” said Chen. “I think this is all part of the negotiation process. … I’m hoping [it’ll] be done pretty soon.”